Childfree Financial Planning: Going from the SINK to DINK — or DINK to SINK — Lifestyle
Whether partnering up or splitting up, childfree folks have a lot to consider when it comes to money and relationships. Not having kids certainly doesn’t make beginning or ending a relationship easy financially speaking. For those going from the SINK to DINK lifestyle — or DINK to SINK — a lot more can change than your relationship status.
A few things make financial planning for SINKs and DINKs unique simply because they’re childfree. But what about those moving within the childfree space? If you’re part of the single income no kids (SINK) population and beginning a new relationship or getting more serious with your partner, read on for a few things to consider financially as a DINK. And if you’re going from a dual income no kids (DINK) household to living the SINK lifestyle, here’s a starting point you can use as you build your money-adjacent to-do list.
Shifting from SINK to DINK
So you’re partnering up with your person. Congrats! What should you think about and prepare for when it comes to your finances in a relationship? You may want to consider how you’ll …
Approach finances as a couple — Will you manage your money solo, as a couple, or a bit of both? This can evolve over time, so you might shift your approach to meet your needs as they change. This will influence whether you have joint accounts, how you divvy up expenses, what you save for joint goals, and so much more. It might even impact how you make the money that you bring into the relationship. Having this conversation now can help you avoid ending your relationship due to money issues.
Split shared costs — With your approach down, I’m talking about mechanics here. Options can range from splitting bills at restaurants and paying your partner back in cash or using apps to transfer your portion to splitting costs by category (e.g., I’ll pay for rent, utilities, and household items; you pay for groceries, going out, and dining out). Knowing who’s paying for what and how you’ll make it happen can inform your purchases before you make them and keep you both accountable.
I recently learned of Tandem, an app that allows you to split costs with your partner. While it’s only available on the Apple App Store, it’s great for couples who usually divide their expenses in some way. You start by linking the financial accounts you use for spending and connect your Tandem account to your partner’s.
The app then allows you to track and share the expenses you’ll divide. You can select and set a percentage basis (e.g., 55/45: You earn 55% of our household income and I earn 45%, so I’ll pay for 45% of our shared expenses while you pay the other 55%.) or adjust each purchase individually using a different percentage or flat dollar amount. You can also keep your own personal expenses all yours and not share them with your partner. Once you split an expense, your partner sees it in their Tandem feed so you can always look at where you’re at and how much you owe. To actually “settle” the balance, you can use Venmo, Cash App, or another method, like an offline payment, or even request payments right in the Tandem app.
Now I don’t advocate for any particular apps. This just happens to be one that a client couple recently recommended to me. I tried it and liked it! If you have a suggestion to share, send it my way! You can reach me at email@example.com or our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Make joint decisions — When an expense impacts you both, how will you handle it? For some couples, it’s conversation. Others break it down by cost and benefits. Still others go directly to the numbers and let their budget decide for them. Whatever your style, having a set standard in place can help you avoid overextending your finances or making an impulse buy that you might regret.
Are you (yes, YOU!) going SINK to DINK, financially speaking? Let’s chat! We’d love to offer you and your partner a time to meet with us to see if it makes sense for us all to work together.
Going from DINK to the SINK Lifestyle
Going from being a DINK to living the SINK lifestyle — whether through an amicable divide that betters both of you, a bitter split, or somewthing in between — can be tough, especially after having been intertwined with another person to a degree for some period of time. Maybe you were a DINKWAC or DINKWAD who’s now figuring out how to co-parent a pet. When handling finances during a divorce or breakup, you might want to consider how you’ll …
Address your account titling — Are you and your former partner both named on joint accounts, credit cards, or property? If amicably splitting them isn’t an option, it’s probably a good idea to involve an attorney here. If you’re married and your DINK to SINK shift is due to divorce, you might already be working with one. This is the perfect time to have your domestic partner agreement or prenup at the ready.
Approach estate planning — This is especially true if you’re ending a marriage or committed partnership. If your will or trust included your former partner as a beneficiary, it’s likely time to talk to your attorney.
Update your beneficiaries — Along with your estate, you’ll want to review your beneficiary designations on your accounts if you no longer want your assets to transfer to your ex in the event of your death. Look at your bank, retirement (401(k) or 403(b), Roth and traditional IRA), and investment accounts. If you’re removing your former partner, who will your beneficiary be? If you don’t have a person to consider, don’t forget that charities and nonprofits can fill these roles.
Manage money as a SINK — Splitting with your partner doens’t mean splitting your previous household budget in half. In fact, the SINK lifestyle will likely be more expensive than half of your DINK cash outflows. Consider housing: If you’ll be living alone, you might be moving to a smaller or less-pricey place … but you’ll be responsible for the full rent or mortgage payment, insurance, and more. If you previously split expenses for a vehicle, you or your former partner might be exiting the relationship with it. That means paying for the registration and insurance on your own — or being in the position where it’s up to you to buy a vehicle to meet your transportation needs. Think of how you’ll plan your cash flow solo and if it’s similar to or entirely different from what you did when you were a DINK. This could include changing your lifestyle and cost of living to adjust to one income.
Caring for yourself — Ending a relationship can mean losing a support system, whether that was a friend group or your previous partner’s family. Working activities into your budget can help you find folks with similar interests should you want to form a new crew. And setting aside some of your cash flow for self-care — whether for therapy or to reconnect with those with whom you’ve lost touch — can help you rediscover yourself.
Whether you’re getting serious in your relationship or seriously ready to end it, working with a financial professional can help you navigate money matters. From budgeting to estate planning and deciding whether to own accounts or property jointly, Don’t forget about the other professionals in your life, like your attorney and therapist, as you navigate the myriad other aspects of life when further intertwining with or fully unraveling from another person.
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